The Clinical and Social Burdens of Skin Pigmentation Disorders

October 30, 2020
Jonathan Alicea

Skin pigmentation disorders do not always have a cure or treatment, and they may cause social or emotional burdens for the patient.

When it comes to dermatological conditions and skin pigmentation disorders, patients may face burdens related to lack of treatments as well as the emotional strain they may cause. These burdens are perhaps more poignantly experienced by people of color, a population that is already at higher risk for healthcare disparities.

In this month’s episode of Derm Discussions, Seemal Desai, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist and expert in areas related to skin of color, discussed these therapeutic challenges faced by people of color.

He particularly noted that his interest in this clinical domain has stemmed from more personal experiences with vitiligo.

“Vitiligo is the reason I became a dermatologist, specializing in pigmentation and skin of color,” he said. “This was because of my own younger brother’s experience dealing with vitiligo — and my family’s experience dealing with this — at a very young ago. [I saw] the impact on a family of south-east Asian/Indian background, and how vitiligo was really viewed as a social death sentence, if you will.”

Desai explained that in addition to the social challenges that many of these patients face, there is still no cure or US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved treatments. However, he acknowledged the advances the field of dermatology has made in this domain. Further, he stressed the importance of offering hope for these patients.

He talked through his treatment regimen for vitiligo patients and his best practices for making this condition as manageable as possible for them.

Drawing from his own personal and clinical experiences, Desai offered similar insight into treatments and management of other related disorders, such as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, seborrheic dermatitis, and melasma.

He elaborated on the various challenges each condition presents and discussed the therapeutic options he has used in his own practice to tackle them.

To take a deeper dive into this derm discussion, listen to the first episode, “What’s New in Skin of Color,” on Derm Discussions.